On Banning Text Books

It must be some sort of rule or law that every twenty years books must be banned, come hell or high water.  We are in the twentieth year of the process.

As you must know, each time a book is considered objectionable, questionably offensive, or outright banned, sales of that book will skyrocket into the orbit of the unavailablesphere because of high demand.

Noticing some of the books that are being brought into question made me feel nostalgic.  My freshman year in high school we studied Shakespeare.  Have any of these parents who want certain books banned ever read Hamlet?  “Throughout the play Hamlet refers to his mother as an incestuous, cold hearted, whore, whose actions are only defined by her sexual desires.”

Perhaps these overbearing parents read King Lear instead.  Talk about misogyny.  “while Lear’s misogyny manifests in his belief in the inferiority and weakness of women, Hamlet expresses his misogyny through his Freudian confusion of sexuality and womanhood.”  In any case, we had discussions in class about these plays.  Bear in mind that I attended a Catholic parochial school.  The nun teaching English Literature, Sister Isaia, was about 100 years old.  At least I thought she might be.  And being a nun, she emphasized that “get thee to a nunnery” meant get thee to a whorehouse (experts disagree on this – I am not an expert).

We were supposed to have read “The Merchant of Venice,” but I had a difficult time getting into it.  I must have picked something up in class discussion to get a passing grade on this.  Again, the story is somewhat anti-Christian.  If a Catholic school can teach about this play, how come it wasn’t considered offensive?

During my senior year at Kuemper, my English class was taught by a nun that was much younger than Sister Isaia.  Sister Charla was a young, hip, motivator.  One of her projects was for us to study the poetry of the Beatles – in 1968.  Our reading assignment for this year was “The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck.  If you’ve ever read this classic, you might ask yourself what is this book doing in a Catholic school?  The book is rife with slavery, opium use (or abuse), prostitution, adultery, elder abuse, and greed.  One of the daughters was slain after birth because they couldn’t provide for her.  The main character builds a separate wing of his home to provide for his concubine.  He stows his wife in a small room and leaves her to die.

I saw “The Good Earth” at a used book sale and bought it.  I realize I didn’t appreciate it enough when I was supposed to read it.

Should kids be reading these things?  Perhaps the classics mentioned above are not visually pornographic, but if the subject matter was appropriate for young Catholic high schoolers in the 1960s, what crosses the line today?

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